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Jorma Kaukonen Kicks Things Off at the Ryman

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Jorma Kaukonen is known for his playing and teaching of finger style guitar for over half a century setting an example as a leader in the genre. Jorma came into prominence in the 1960's with the psychedelic rock group the Jefferson Airplane. Next, he formed Hot Tuna with Jack Casady and the two still perform together although Jorma has done a number of solo projects, too. In addition, Kaukonen and his wife operate Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp in which students receive instruction from Jorma and other guitar greats.


Jorma Kaukonen played a solo set at the Ryman Auditorium in 2021.

Interestingly, Jorma was in Nashville, Tennessee to teach at Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Camp USA which ran from September 23-27, 2021. Since Kaukonen was in Music City it made sense that Jorma would have the opening slot at Tommy's show at the Ryman Auditorium on the 25th. He started by thanking Emmanuel for inviting him. With strong steady strumming he presented a stripped down version of "True Religion". That tune set the mood for a rather reflective and/or perhaps even religious tone. "Been So Long" enriched that vibe as did "Take Your Time" a song that was penned during the pandemic for his daughter. It was a nuanced piece that shared solid advice for young adults.

"My wife said not to play this because it's depressing. But, as a blues man I have to," Jorma joked. So, he proceeded with "Death Don't Have No Mercy" which came after "Nobody Knows You When Your Down" thus enhancing the contemplative feel of his set. "Keep Your Lambs Trimmed and Burning" along with "Good Shepherd" from his Airplane days seem to be saying something weighty in this one-time Gospel hewn tabernacle. Still, Jorma did not elaborate. Instead, he let the music do the preaching leaving things open to interpretation for the congregates inside.

Schooled in the styles of Rev. Gary Davis and other country-blues pioneers, Kaukonen uses a thumb pick, along with fingerpicks on his middle and index fingers. He has become a master of the craft which in turn has led to a bit of a cult following. On Saturday, Mr. Kaukonen presented a somewhat serious yet skilled opening show. Hopefully, the students in attendance picked up some pointers and I am sure they benefited from working with him directly at the camp as well.

The Ryman Auditorium may be known as the Mother Church of Country Music but the venue continues to host a wide range of artists such as Tommy Emmanuel with Jorma. Upcoming shows include the Indigo Girls, Lucero, John Hiatt, Dawes, Rival Sons, Drive-By Truckers and Joe Bonamassa.


Jorma founded Hot Tuna and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Related Links: For more information on JORMA KAUKONEN and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Jorma Kaukonen | Tommy Emmanuel | Tommy Emmanuel Puts On a Master Class in Guitar in Music City | Ryman Auditorium

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